Andrea with her wonderful wall of washi
Mapleton is not the biggest main street around, but it certainly has some of the most interesting shops. The newest edition is Chiyogami Designs, a haven of beautiful and varied origami paper and washi tape – perfect for artists, craft lovers and card makers. Victoria McGuin went to find out more about this unique shop, which entices customers from as far as Brisbane, and meet woman behind it.
I know a good handful of children who are obsessed with origami – it is fantastic for the developing mind: creative, and encouraging mindfulness through the art of concentration. So, when I saw Chiyogami Designs open in Shop1 on the Obi Obi Road in Mapleton, I was curious to look inside.
Most people know origami is the art of paper folding; ori meaning folding, gami meaning paper and is notably associated with Japan – although historically it also appears in Europe and China.
Andrea Walker’s own love affair with origami began when she visited her brother in Japan in 2010. “I saw some lovely paper over there while I was looking for Christmas presents for my ‘crafty’ friends.
“I had an excess when I came home, so I thought I’d try to sell it on eBay. It sold quickly; so, when my brother next came to visit he brought some more, which also sold.”
Andrea noticed a gap in the market for authentic Japanese origami paper and soon found a wholesaler in Japan. “I won’t get it anywhere else,” she shares, “because I find the Japanese paper is always perfectly square, which is vital.”
As time went on, Andrea noticed that ‘washi tape’ would appear on her screen when she searched for anything to do with origami. “I thought, ‘what is this stuff?’ and put in a small order for 300 rolls in 30 patterns.
The meaning of washi is wa for Japanese, and shi for paper, and the paper is made using the fibres of the from the inner bark of the gampi tree, the paper mulberry or the mitsumata shrub.
“The tape is sticky and made from this paper, and it is also re-positionable, which is great for card making, scrap booking and design.”
Her initial order soon sold out on eBay. “I’ve now bought in about 100,000 rolls, and sold tens of thousands – I’ve even sold them back to Japan! The quality and designs are excellent, and I think I may have the biggest display in the Southern Hemisphere.”
The shop came about relatively recently, which is the perfect place to showcase this vast selection. “We have had a holiday home in Kenilworth for years, as I had to live in Brisbane for my work as an accountant.
“On the weekends we would drive up to Mapleton for coffee and I always loved it. I had a pop-up shop in Kenilworth, where the doctors’ surgery used to be. I was supposed to be there for four weeks, but ended up there for nearly nine months!
“I heard about this vacant shop, and knew I would love to open here, and we now live permanently in Kenilworth.”
Andrea’s partner, Tony Kalman, a cabinet-maker, built her a foldable ‘wall’ full of shelves for her tape and paper. “It’s my ‘wonderful wall of washi’,’ Andrea smiles. “Tony made it for the Tassie Craft Fair in 2014 and now it is perfect in the shop.”
Andrea herself loves crafts, she has tried knitting, patchworking, lead lighting, and painting – however it was origami paper and washi tape that opened her to scrap booking and even jewellery making. “I make earrings, pendant and hair clips using washi tape, origami and Japanese postage stamps. They look beautiful and different from anything else, I think.”
Encouraging others to create with these designs, is something Andrea is passionate about. “I have had a few workshops here, and would love to do more. They were all booked out.”
The first workshop was ‘Playing with Paper’: “We made a journal cover, folded and collaged it to put a book into.
The second workshop was repurposing a suspension file: “We took off the metal piece and created a three-fold booklet. You could add pages to it, put things in it, create pockets.” Andrea shows me hers and it really is a lovely, original and useful work of art.
The third and fourth workshops concentrated on card making. “Karen who works at the local QML ran the workshops, she is very talented and makes some of the Christmas cards in the shop.”
Andrea also likes to support local artists who can do things with her tape and paper. “Linda Jones from Dulong uses it in her acrylic work, and other mediums. Lissy Henderson of Buderim creates beautiful watercolours with a layer of washi tape.” Both artists have work for sale in the shop.
Whilst I am there, Andrea sits with my children and an impromptu workshop begins, creating tiny origami butterflies. They are completely absorbed.
“I always welcome people who would like to create or run workshops here. Two art therapy teachers from ‘Playing with Possibilities’ ran my first two workshops, as they saw how origami can be such a valuable exercise in art, focus and fun.
“I’ve also met a paper maker who I hope will run a workshop, so I think this will certainly be an area that grows for the shop.”
Chiyogami itself is a particular type of Japanese paper, woodblock-printed in bright colours and patterns. “The word means ‘one thousand generations of paper’,” says Andrea. “And I love that it has such a rich history.”
It appears, on first impressions, that Chiyogami Designs is certainly bringing that rich history to some of the local generations here, and long may it continue.
Visit: www.chiyogamidesigns.com for more information, or visit the shop Friday to Sunday, 10am – 3.30pm.